Mar 15

Suffolk Court Closings – Message from Hon. C. Randall Hinrichs regarding Coronavirus

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Suffolk Court Closings – Message from Hon. C. Randall Hinrichs regarding Coronavirus

Since this post was first published, additional information has become available. Please see our updated post regarding court closures resulting from the Coronavirus.

To all of our clients,

Please see the message below from Administrative Judge, C. Randall Hinrichs regarding the Suffolk County court’s response to the Coronavirus. If any clients wish to adjourn their matters, please contact the office immediately.

Judge Hinrich’s Message:

The New York State Unified Court System has undertaken very significant efforts to reduce courthouse traffic and combat the spread of the coronavirus. Chief Judge Janet DiFiore and Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence K. Marks have already announced measures relating to court proceedings and more are anticipated at the beginning of the week. The purpose of this communication with the Suffolk Bar is to inform all of you how these measures relate specifically to court proceedings in Suffolk County.

We are all very concerned about the health and safety of
both our workforce and everyone that comes into our courthouses. Suffolk
County, through the Suffolk County Executive’s Office and Suffolk County
Department of Public Works, has been extremely helpful regarding
additional/enhanced cleaning of our buildings. This cleaning includes, but
is not limited to, mag stations, entrances, handrails, elevators, jury rooms,
libraries and courtrooms/benches.

The Unified Court System in an effort to limit traffic in
the courts during this medical emergency has directed Judges to entertain
applications to extend timelines, postpone proceedings whenever possible and to
fully consider the use of remote proceedings (video and telephonic). In
addition, as many of you might already be aware, we have stopped the use of
courthouses for non-essential events both during and after hours.

Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence K. Marks has directed
the following regarding Jury and Jury Trial Matters:

Effective this Monday, March 16, civil jury trials in
which opening statements have not commenced shall be postponed until further
notice; civil jury trials already commenced shall continue to conclusion.
Criminal jury trials shall continue where jeopardy has attached; no new
criminal jury trials shall be commenced. The jury selection process in civil
and criminal trial matters shall be suspended until further notice. Existing
grand juries will continue, upon consultation with the appropriate district attorney
and empaneling judge. No new grand juries shall be empaneled absent exceptional
circumstances.

SUPREME COURT CIVIL

Civil Trial Assignment Part:

Pursuant to the directive of Chief Administrative Judge
Lawrence K. Marks, effective March 16, 2020 the normal operation of the Civil
TAP Part (CCP) is suspended until further notice. Notices will be sent out
by the court with rescheduled dates. While the TAP (CCP) calendar is not
being called on a daily basis, Justice Paul Baisley remains available to hear
applications and conduct conferences as required. 

PC Conferences/DCM:

Applications for adjournment on consent of preliminary
conferences shall be faxed to the DCM Part at 631-852-2699. Absent an
adjournment on consent, the parties shall call the DCM Part at 631-852-2343 to
schedule a telephone conference with the Court Attorney-Referee assigned to
DCM.

ADR Conferences:

Settlement conferences in the ADR Part will go forward as
scheduled in the ADR Referral Order. However, effective immediately and
until further notice, settlement conferences will only be conducted
telephonically. On the date of the conference at the scheduled time, once
all counsel/parties are on the line, they shall call the ADR Part at
631-852-2911 to be put through to the assigned Judge/JHO.

Foreclosure CPLR 3408 Conferences:

CPLR 3408 settlement conference calendars scheduled in the
Foreclosure Settlement Conference Part between are being re-scheduled for the
next 45 days. Notifications of the re-scheduled dates will be sent to all
parties. 

Foreclosure Matters:

We will provide additional information regarding statewide
administrative orders and directives as that information becomes available.

IAS Parts:

Consistent with the goal to minimize courthouse appearances
and maximize adjournments and stipulations on consent and conducting telephone
or remote appearances when appropriate, all applications to adjourn a matter or
to conduct a remote conference should be directed to the IAS Part. The IAS
Judge retains discretion to direct parties to appear as appropriate. Any
application regarding a pending non-jury trial before an IAS Part should also
be made to the IAS Judge.

Special Term:

A Special Term Part in both Central Islip and Riverhead
remains available to hear applications on a daily basis.

 SUPREME COURT MATRIMONIAL

Effective March 16, 2020, all contested Matrimonial Parts in
Suffolk County shall be managed with a goal of minimizing courthouse
appearances, maximizing adjournments and stipulations on consent, and directing
remote appearances through Skype or telephone.

Court Appearances:

Whenever practical matrimonial parts will permit appearances
by Skype or telephone, and will entertain applications to extend deadlines,
adjourn cases, and waive appearances by litigants.  

Hearings and Trials:

Adjournment requests for hearings and trials will be
determined by the individually assigned Justice on a case-by-case basis.

Motions:

All motions in contested matrimonial cases not seeking
emergency interim relief shall be taken on submission unless otherwise directed
by the court. When emergency interim relief is sought, the court may,
whenever practical, permit the appearance of opposing counsel and/or the
parties by telephone or Skype.

Matrimonial Mediation Cases:

All matrimonial mediation sessions scheduled through April
3, 2020 will be rescheduled.

FAMILY COURT

Family Court deals with extremely sensitive matters with the
safety and well-being of families and children being of paramount
importance. It is anticipated that statewide policies will be adopted for
Family Court and additional communications are anticipated.

Judges, Referees and Support Magistrates will adjourn cases
at their discretion, keeping in mind the safety and well-being of children and
families.

Judicial Officers have been encouraged to do telephonic
conferences when possible.

Family Treatment court In-team meetings will be conducted by
phone/Skype. The court will collaborate with treatment facilities to
ensure testing is being done and minimize court appearances.

The court will coordinate with the domestic violence
agencies to increase usage of Remote Order of Protection applications and
associate initial filings. (Attorneys may be assigned during remote
appearance.)

The court will provide attorneys access to utilize a remote
or “virtual” Clerk’s Office to file pleadings by e-mailing documents to SCFCRemoteClerk@nycourts.gov. Judges
may allow telephonic appearance if immediate action required. Such request
should be contained in e-mail.

All newly filed Custody, Guardianship, Visitation and Child
Support cases shall be scheduled at staggered times throughout the day to avoid
overcrowding and reduce wait times.

ADR sessions scheduled through April 3, 2020 will be
rescheduled.

SURROGATE’S COURT

All Conferences scheduled on March 16, 2020, and thereafter,
will be conducted telephonically, by other means (e.g. Skype) or adjourned to a
future date. Please make the necessary arrangements and forward the
information to the law assistant assigned to the matter so that she/he will be
able to participate. The court will notify the parties or counsel, if
represented, of any adjourn date.

On Process Calendar dates, the court will be calling matters
according to departments in order to minimize the number of people in the
courtroom. We will call Guardianship and Probate together; then
Administration; then Accountings and Miscellaneous. The court will wait
for the courtroom to clear of people before bringing in the next
group. Unless otherwise directed by the court, all motions will be on
submission; no appearances. There will be no conferences directed from the
Process Calendar. Counsel shall advise their clients not to appear for the
Process Calendar.

There will be no oral argument on orders to show cause or
temporary restraining orders or other immediate relief without prior court
approval. To the extent possible oral arguments will be held
telephonically, via SKYPE or other means.

Any mediations that have been scheduled through the end of
April will be rescheduled. Any new Early Settlement Conferences will be
scheduled six weeks and a day from the process calendar date. These
conferences shall be held telephonically; neither attorneys nor parties shall
appear at the court for any conference.

All Examinations Before Trial will be conducted outside of
the courthouse, including those previously scheduled to take place at the
courthouse.

COUNTY COURT CRIMINAL AND DISTRICT COURT CRIMINAL

All Criminal Parts, at the discretion of the assigned Judge,
have undertaken efforts to limit both in person appearances and the production
of prisoners. On Monday, March 16th a meeting of the key
criminal stakeholders is taking place to further implement the goals of reduced
prisoner movement, limiting in person appearances and minimizing the number of
individuals that appear at any time in a courtroom. There is also the
potential for further action at the state level in the criminal area and if
there are any additional developments, they will be shared immediately.

CONCLUSION

I am very appreciative of the collaboration that has always
existed in Suffolk County between the bench and the bar. It is my hope
that as we navigate this present medical crisis together, it only strengthens
that bench/bar relationship. This crisis has continued to evolve and we
will keep you apprised of any additional measures that are taken. Please be
advised that additional statewide policies and orders will be issued at the
beginning of the week, we will keep you posted. Your ongoing cooperation
in these efforts is greatly appreciated. It is my privilege to work with
an outstanding group of Judges, court employees and members of the
bar. Thank you.

Hon. C. Randall Hinrichs

District Administrative Judge

10th Judicial District, Suffolk County

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